Yorkshire CCC racism row: Robin Smith demands DCMS apology over ‘show trial’

FORMER Yorkshire chairman Robin Smith believes that the club and its members deserve “an unreserved public apology” after The Yorkshire Post revealed that politicians sat on key evidence relating to the Azeem Rafiq racism case.

Smith said that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee and its chair Julian Knight MP should say sorry for conducting a “show trial” that made “no attempt whatsoever to get to the truth” of a matter that has cost the club millions of pounds and led to the sackings, resignations and reputational damage of numerous people.

As reported on Wednesday, the DCMS select committee allowed key evidence to go uncontested despite it contradicting the findings of an independent investigation into Rafiq’s allegations which it had in its possession at November’s hearing.

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Most seriously, the claim that Rafiq lost his career to racism when he was released by Yorkshire in 2018 at the age of 27 was rejected by a report which stated that the decision was “purely a cricketing one” and that “race and religion played no part in the decision not to extend his contract”.

Former Yorkshire chairman Robin Smith. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comFormer Yorkshire chairman Robin Smith. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Former Yorkshire chairman Robin Smith. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Instead, the report found that Rafiq was released because of his “form and attitude” and in Yorkshire’s “best interests”, a point which Martyn Moxon, the then director of cricket, and one of those who lost his career as a consequence, always maintained.

Moxon was accused in that hearing by Rafiq of having “ripped the shreds off me” on Rafiq’s first day back at the club after the loss of his still-born son earlier in 2018, with the former spin bowler describing the treatment that he received from club officials at that time as “inhuman”.

However, Knight and his committee again stayed silent despite the report throwing out the allegation, as put by investigators, that “the club failed to provide him (Rafiq) with the support he needed during a difficult time for him (after the loss of his son)”, determining instead that Yorkshire “provided him with the support he needed”.

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Knight opted not to publish under parliamentary privilege the report by the international law firm Squire Patton Boggs, which raised serious doubts about some of the allegations and also made a number of counter-claims, including that Rafiq used to tell his former Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance to “f*** off back to Zimbabwe” and “often make jokes about his Zimbabwean nationality”. Instead, the DCMS published only Rafiq’s uncontested witness statement to Leeds Employment Tribunal.

Former cricketer Azeem Rafiq.  Picture:  House of Commons/PA WireFormer cricketer Azeem Rafiq.  Picture:  House of Commons/PA Wire
Former cricketer Azeem Rafiq. Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire

Smith, who has previously been accused by Knight and the DCMS of trying to block the so-called essential reforms of current club chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel, who has also never shared the report’s contents with the public or the Yorkshire members, described the DCMS hearing as “a flagrant abuse of public trust and confidence”.

Smith told The Yorkshire Post: “Yorkshire and the club’s members deserve an unreserved public apology from Julian Knight and the DCMS without delay. The hearing into Rafiq’s allegations was a disgrace, a charade and a blatant show trial.

“It is an absolute scandal that this has been allowed to happen and it was a deliberate attempt, in my view, to prevent the truth from coming out.

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“That Knight himself expressed his condemnation of the club in the most vitriolic of terms some two weeks prior to the hearing was itself a travesty.”

Smith believes that all those committee members present at the hearing should now consider their positions. In addition to Knight, the MPs in attendance were Kevin Brennan, Steve Brine, Alex Davies-Jones, Clive Efford, Julie Elliott, Damian Green, Simon Jupp, John Nicolson and Giles Watling.

“I think all of those individuals should now consider their positions,” said Smith. “The performance of the committee at the Rafiq interview was appalling; that has now been unequivocally exposed.”

Knight has defended his actions and those of his committee, telling the Daily Mail that Rafiq was called to share his personal experiences as opposed to being forensically examined.

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However, Rafiq’s testimony, as published by the DCMS on its own website subsequently, was specifically headed “examination of witness” and the hearing contained plenty of questions from committee members, who went on to grill Roger Hutton, the former Yorkshire chairman, with rather more severity.

“The evidence that Azeem Rafiq provided the committee was his personal perspective on his own experience,” Knight told the Mail.

“Our committee chose to publish Mr Rafiq’s witness statement to the Leeds employment tribunal because it provided context to his experiences of racism at Yorkshire.

“We made the decision not to publish Yorkshire’s own report on its investigation because we believed the onus remained with the club to do so.

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“Our focus now should be on reforming cricket in this country so that nobody need suffer the racial harassment and bullying that Azeem Rafiq was found to have experienced.”

Smith described that as “obvious nonsense” and repeated his call for Lord Patel to resign. “Patel must go,” he insisted. “As I’ve said before, his position is untenable.”

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